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J an DArcy
  The Use of Repetition in Your Speech

The use of examples, stories and repetition bring your speech to life and make it even more enjoyable for your audience. Here is Jan D'Arcy to tell you how to increase your impact and your effectiveness in making your key points.

Sometimes you want to explain how the situation you are speaking about evolved. James Burke, in discussing money and its effects on our present political system, starts by describing the technique used by Greeks in the fourth century B.C. to retrieve gold dust from a river by using greasy sheepskins. He points out that this may be the origin of the myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece. He goes on to trace the development of coinage, of central mints and eventually national governments.

If you are giving a talk on your company's current policy on retirement, you could start by describing the ceremony in 1924, when seven of the firm's workers were given silver watches in recognition of their 20 years of service. You would then go on to outline the development of the retirement and pension plans up to the present time.

Examples: Patrick McMannis, in A Fine and Pleasant Misery, gives several examples of difficulties he is having on camping trips. "The earth is hardening. I notice this whenever I spread out my sleeping bag, so I know the condition is widespread. The nights in the mountains have become much colder than any I knew in the past. The air has started getting thinner. The trails have doubled in length." McMannis cites these difficulties not as examples of his getting older, but as examples of his theory that there have been enormous geophysical changes in the Western Hemisphere and the earth has shifted on its axis, causing the trails to stretch.

Examples are a form of inductive reasoning, supporting a conclusion. Go over your speech and look for generalizations that could use the help of specific examples to be more vivid.

Repetition. The repetition or restatement of an idea at intervals not only promotes clarity, but encourages the acceptance of an idea. When you repeat and emphasize one idea, competing ideas are subordinated and sometimes are driven completely out of the audience's mind. Dr. Anthony Compollo, Chairman of the Department of Sociology and Youth Ministries at Eastern College in Pennsylvania, gave a speech in which he referred to the "bad news on Friday," the harsh reality that we have to deal with in life. But he urged us to look forward to the "good news on Sunday." He declared, "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming." He gave illustrations of the bad news and the good news, but periodically he would say, "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming." And by the end of the speech, he had the whole audience shouting, "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming."

One of the best-known examples of repetition is Martin Luther King's inspired use of "I have a dream," in his speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 Civil rights March on Washington. In both these cases, the speeches had rising momentum, punctuated by the repeated refrains.

Several years ago, I gave a seminar on image and repeated the statement, "you attract whatever you radiate," several times. I told the audience that if they give off positive energies and are enthusiastic, they would attract positive, enthusiastic friends. Telling, retelling and repeating a third time will establish your ideas firmly in the audience's mind.

Now, here are two things you can do in every speech to come across more effectively:

First, start each speech with a story that links naturally into your subject. People love stories and will hang on every word.

Second, pick a powerful statement or quote and repeat it throughout your talk, inviting the audience to repeat it along with you. As they say, this gets everyone in the group singing off the same page of the hymn book. It is very powerful.


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